12. Hiding

Chapter 12

Hiding

            After a while, my hair and clothes dried and the mysterious seafarer was almost forgotten in my mind. …Well, that was a lie- it was hard to forget someone who was not only willing to give me a chance, but had also asked me to help. Some part of me wondered if these ‘hidden’ seafarers were Elati’s way of trying to convince me to return to the sea.

If there were more people like that guy wandering around, they might actually tug at my conscience. I’ll admit that I was selfish- I didn’t want to risk my life for them. What Satel and Cegil wanted was far more important to me, and they wanted me to live. But I still had a heart…

Still, I was going to have to be more careful around humans. I couldn’t afford to run into any more seafarers and worry my falucite family. It was too bad that he managed to escape- we could’ve taken him to the homestead and asked more questions. If only I’d managed to learn his name, then Maetira could’ve tracked him down for us- if her powers were still working, that is.

Satel eventually gave up grumbling over the man, still a little angry that he had gotten away, and teleported us to the area of the next mission. This time he was to act as a neutral party to some kind of important deal between two influential human families that recently ended a feud.

Apparently this was a rare mission, as situations like this seldom happen. Both families are under the clan’s care, but they carried some kind of resentment towards one another for petty reasons. Now that they’ve finally found some common ground to work together, they needed to trade goods between each other for… whatever. I didn’t really care and stopped listening to Cujol halfway through his explanation earlier this morning when we were receiving the mission specifications.

All I really need to understand was that they were still sore about past differences and anything could go wrong if a neutral party wasn’t present to oversee all trades. The only thing I didn’t like about this mission was that I was going to have to keep my mouth shut, lest I might accidentally open old wounds and rekindle their feud. Both sides were hot-headed idiots from what I’ve heard- and while I have been on my best behavior as of late, Satel warned me that they were the type of people I couldn’t resist taunting.

We arrived rather early to the rendezvous point- it was nothing more than an old dirt crossroad in the middle of nowhere. We were still in the grasslands, but in a different region on the eastern side of the continent. From where we stood, there was nothing but open grassy plains before us and to our left, while the other two directions eventually led to forests in the distance.

There was a slight breeze coming from the south that danced along the grass blades and chilled me somewhat. I wasn’t sure if it was because the winds came from the frigid lands of Jadari or if it had something to do with my modified body. I suppose it would make sense that if I could tolerate hot weather, then the cold should be unbearable for me. Of course, I’ve never been out of the homestead during the cooler seasons, so I wouldn’t know for certain.

The sun was getting close to high noon, meaning that once this job was over, we were taking a lunch break. Until then, Satel was willing to take advantage of the waiting time to cuddle with me and leave a few light love bites along my neck. He had conjured a blanket using his magicks and set it down on the grass so we could sit and wait for the two representatives to arrive.

This was one of the many times he would comment on how glad he was that I was accompanying him on his missions. Many required waiting, and it was nice to have a distraction. Of course, that wasn’t the real reason he’d brought me along- he ensured me several times that intimate moments like this one were simply perks in the arrangement. He also enjoyed my presence on his missions as back up and someone to bounce ideas off of.

“By the way, ‘Tia-dear, what did you purchase in Trins?” the platinum blond inquired once he reached my jaw line. He didn’t really wait for me to explain or show him before he went right back to his light kissing. While I kind of liked the attention I was receiving, I couldn’t wait much longer to see how he would like my gift.

“If you really want to know, then close your eyes,” I told him in a singing tone.

Intrigued, he stopped his attentions and raised his head to ask, “Oh? Why?”

“I want to surprise you,” I replied, feeling both excited and nervous. I couldn’t wait to see the new ascot on him, but I still had some lingering worry that the Harlequin pattern might not work on him, or that he might not like it.

With a smirk of his own, he agreed to my request and I had to pull myself slightly away so I could twist my body to see his face. I waved my hand under his closed eyes to make sure before I reached for the slender box and removed the top. Once I moved the tissue paper out of the way, I picked up the silk material and sought for the ends.

Satel was still smirking as he waited patiently- I had to wonder what was going through his mind. If Lioa was right about him being a constant pervert, maybe he thought I was going to put something sensual on- as if I would ever do that in the open!

I managed to place the ascot around his neck, taking care not to capture his braid of hair along with it. His grin faltered a little when he felt it and he really began to ponder what I was doing. I believed I only had seconds before his curiosity became too strong to keep his eyes closed, so I tied it as quickly as I could, making sure I didn’t do so too tightly.

“There,” I said when I was done. I didn’t tuck the ends into his vest yet, since I figured he would like to see what I had tied on him.

He opened his eyes and appeared confused at first as he reached up to touch what I had wrapped around his neck. “You bought me an ascot?”

“Yeah, to replace the one you’d lost- I tried to find one without patterns, but they were all I could find,” I explained as I held up one of the ends for him to see. Not only did the Harlequin pattern bring out the color, but it really brought out the reddish hue in his red-brown eyes, more so than his old ascot did.

But soon I became a little worried that he might not have liked it since I couldn’t tell if his question was asked out of incredulousness or if he was just stunned. I bit my lip for a moment until I couldn’t hold it in anymore. “Do you… like it?”

“I love it!” he replied with a real smile. I released the breath that I had been holding as I waited for his answer. He then he tucked the ends into his vest and added, “I’ll place magicks on it tonight and wear it always.”

I couldn’t believe that I cared so much about what he thought of my gift… I have given gifts to Cegil before, but I didn’t worry about him liking them since I only gave him practical things that he could use. The ascot was nothing more than a fashion accessory, and Satel didn’t really need it, so his opinion of it carried more weight.

I was grateful that he didn’t point out that I didn’t really give him a ‘gift’ since I didn’t use my money (as far as he knew). It also made me really happy to hear that he would wear it from this day onwards. It was kind of strange to feel that warm, happy feeling of doing something for someone I cared about. I felt this way before when I did something to make Cegil proud, but this somehow felt stronger.

Before I knew it, Satel wrapped his arms around me and pulled me back against him. “Now I need to think of something to get you.”

“You don’t need to!” I protested, worried that he was thinking that he needed to repay me.

“But I want to- I haven’t given you anything but grief these past few weeks. You deserve something for putting up with me,” he replied half-jokingly. It wasn’t as if he was to blame for anything- all that happened were coincidental events that had to involve me for some reason. …Well, save for the part involving Cyirlie- that was all Satel’s fault, even though I will never blame him.

“It really should be the other way around- you’ve been working so hard to make me feel better,” I commented before I leaned in closer and rested the side of my face against his chest. Oh Elit, I hope those idiots show up soon- we were getting too sappy.

“If you feel that way, then we must get something for you- it makes me feel better seeing you adorned in something I give to you,” he told me after a light chuckle. It was comments like that that made me wonder if he liked treating me as his personal doll…

Of course, was I any better? I was loving the fact that he wanted to wear the ascot I’d given him- I was damn giddy, in fact.

I heard a whinny in the distance and turned my head in its’ direction. On the path to our left, I could see a tall carriage being drawn by five white horses appearing in the grassy plains. Despite the rise in technological advances due to the invention of the steam engine, the horseless carriages were not yet that popular for long distance travel. The engines used in the vehicles needed water, and there was only so much distance three gallons could take them.

Until the day engines either carried more water or used less to function, everyone was still going to be stuck with horses or lesser demons to get anywhere.

“Ah, impeccable timing- I hear the other party making their way through the forests now,” Satel noted as he turned his head towards the right, where the forest path was. Since his hearing was superior to mine, the other carriage was probably further away than the one on the plain.

But since one of them was rapidly approaching us, we stood up and waited for them to reach the crossroad. I soon realized what the über hat man had meant when he said they were the type of people that I would likely have something to say about. As the carriage stopped, I was able to see that the horses were fancy thoroughbreds and the decorations on the carriage were top-class opulent attractions that tended to give away how stuck up the owner was.

Though if I hadn’t received that word of caution from Satel, I could always hope that it was a man who recently worked his way into riches and wanted to enjoy it. Rare as that is, I had more respect for such people.

There were two men dressed in breeches with thick velvet vests and tailcoats riding on a seat in the very back. They jumped down and practically scrambled for the door so that they could assist the lord out. But before the ‘man of honor’ could come out, at least four guards dressed in fancy dark blue coats filed out and stood beside the footmen, two on each side, to both protect the lord and make him look important.

The guards carried long rifles against their shoulders and had rapiers at their belts. With all this pomp and circumstance, I had to wonder how far up in status the lord was. Since there were only four guards, I would have to say no greater than an earl, but then I have seen a few of even lesser status bring along more than what was necessary.

The lord was a middle aged man who wore a curly brown wig and had his face cleanly shaven so that any grey hairs wouldn’t make his fake hair look out of place. His nose was a little bulbous and the wrinkles around his eyes sagged some, but otherwise he appeared as regal and stuck up as any noble.

I was actually a little amused when the second lord came, appearing almost identical to the first and brought along the same number of servants and guards. The only distinguishable difference between the two was that the other side wore crimson coats instead. If they’ve been at war with each other for some time, then it must’ve been because they were so alike- and if they were as insufferable and stuffy as they appeared, it’s no wonder why they couldn’t get along with ‘themselves’.

They both regarded each other with disgusted faces before they turned to Satel and bowed to him. To further brown nose the falucite, they also bowed to me. I just nodded once to acknowledge them, far too used to the gesture to get any pleasure out of it. Being Satel’s mate made me a higher station than even royalty, so the very people I despised for being snobs (other than the citizens of Port Sibest) had to show me respect.

I had thought I would enjoy it more, but I realized that in the world of nobles, there was always someone higher in rank whose ass needed to be kissed. They didn’t care to whom they were bowing to as long as they could get what they wanted. That just took the fun out of it…

For two men at peace, they still wanted to show their superiority to the other. I watched the exchange happen while resisting the urge to yawn. At least I could see why it was important to have a falucite oversee something as little as a trade and agreement- only Satel had the power to stop them should a snide comment go too far and they start using their guards to fight each other. But other than that, there was nothing particularly interesting about the mission or the men.

“Lord Satel,” the noble with the crimson guards started while my mate was reading over a list, “My family has overseen great prosperity in the last five generations- all due to your guidance and wisdom.”

“Mm-hm,” Satel muttered, not really paying attention to the praise. I wasn’t sure if it was because he was really focusing on that list, or didn’t care about whatever praise the man was trying to give. This was actually one of the few times I got to see my mate acting like a mature businessman- it was kind of cute how he seemed to mimic Cegil’s personality for it.

However, his ‘professional’ disinterest didn’t stop the man from getting to the point.

“My youngest son is about to reach his sixth birthday- he is the perfect age to begin learning the wisdom of the falucite. I was hoping that you might consider adopting him so that he may follow in the greatness you have given us,” he continued, earning a look of scorn from the other noble.

…How disturbing- they knew they were no better than pets to the falucite and were still willing to throw their children into the role. I knew that the nobles that were directly cared for by the clan received better education and upbringing, but shouldn’t that be their choice? It also kind of angered me that upper class ass-wipers sought to use falucite to strengthen their own prosperity, and yet they teach the commoners to hate them as monsters.

But was it right of me to get upset when that was exactly what the falucite wanted?

“I would have to respectfully decline, as I am not seeking a new charge- my better half is not ready to be troubled with children, let alone train one in the ways of nobility,” the blond man replied as he accepted a quill pen from one of the footmen so he could sign the list. So I was his ‘better’ half?

Ugh! Used to, his flattery would go over my head and I wouldn’t believe a word he’d tell me, but now he could make me blush without even addressing me directly. I was turning into a soft-hearted woman- perhaps I should convince Satel to take me to a bar later so I could deck some obnoxious drunk. That should help retain some of my fading masculinity. I may like being a girl, but there were some aspects from my old upbringing that I wanted to keep.

Of course, my ‘girly’ tendencies only seemed to happen around Satel. I was still ‘myself’ in a sense- it was just that he alone brought out other emotions and habits in me that I didn’t know I had. He’d admitted before that he felt the same way around me when he realized that he loved me. It disturbed him too, at first, but he accepted it as another part of himself.

It wasn’t until after the papers were signed and the goods were exchanged that the noble with the blue guards decided to try his hand in obtaining an advantage. He glanced at me for a brief second before he tried to get the über hat man’s attention.

“Lord Satel, are you intending to breed that lovely young woman behind you? I have a grandson who is of marrying age-”

“She is my mate,” he intoned, interrupting the man. Even though it was an honest mistake, one that kind of ticked me off, Satel’s voice had an undertone of displeasure and his eyes narrowed to give the noble a warning glare. However, if the man thought I was a pet, then why did he bow to me earlier? I didn’t think falucite ‘pets’ were considered above his status.

“I-I apologize, I did not see a ring on her finger,” he stammered, forgetting the fact that falucite didn’t need rings to prove that one was in a committed relationship. The other snobbish man was happy that his rival made a fool of himself and held a silk handkerchief up to hide his smirk. Oh how I wanted to deck them both…

But my attention was quickly directed elsewhere when I realized something wasn’t quite right. It was as if I felt a presence behind me and I slowly noticed that there was something almost pressing into my back. I turned my head slightly to find a figure covered in black in my peripheral vision. I bit back a yelp when I figured out that there was actually a person standing there.

The only one I knew who would intentionally ‘appear’ right behind me was Maetira- and the black material I saw only confirmed it. She held her position behind me, perhaps trying to use me to hide from the noblemen. But with her being an inch taller than me, there wasn’t much I could do to hide her presence.

But the noblemen were too busy trying to please Satel, and one of them was too embarrassed to look me in the eye after that mix up, so she went on unnoticed anyway. My mate kept his back to me the entire time, but he seemed to know his sister was here and simply didn’t acknowledge her until after everyone was stuffed back into their carriages and took off.

“What do you want, Maetira-dear, I’m busy,” he muttered in a superior tone, acting as if he had better things to do than talk to the Oracle.

It wasn’t until he decided to turn and face us that the woman moved. Her arm swung out to reveal a mass of black cloth clenched in her hand and she let it go so it would fly over in his general direction. Her brother caught it with ease and held it out before him with two hands to reveal that it was his new frock coat.

“Oh, look at that. Maetira has given up being an Oracle in favor of becoming a delivery girl. Give her a tip for me, ‘Tia-dear,” he said jokingly as he pulled on his new coat. It was the same design as the one he’d lost- it ended at his knees and had large black buttons lining down from the satin lapel to the bottom hem.

“Wrong. I am a messenger,” the blonde woman corrected as she moved her giant crystal ball to be supported by both arms. She’d had to carry it in one arm so she could hold the frock coat in her other hand.

“You have my sympathies- it’s a very thankless job,” I retorted, remembering my experience as the clan messenger that only happened about a week ago.

“Indeed,” she agreed, perhaps also speaking from experience. Come to think of it, she always seemed to be around to deliver a message. “Do not come home for a while. The Great Evil still has business with us it seems. She has ignored the barriers and is visiting us as we speak.”

After Satel had survived the venom, the elders placed a strong barrier around the lands surrounding the homestead to keep all sea dragons out. It was supposed to be a message to Cyirlie that we were bitter for what she had done- and also a ruse to cover up the fact that Satel still lived. However… if Elati knows that my mate is alive, then wouldn’t Cyirlie eventually know through her anyway?

That raises another important question- does Elati know? I think we’ve established that she doesn’t know much outside of the ocean’s reach, but we don’t have any real proof of that. I would almost be worried about the earlier incident of being splashed with water, but I had no clue if it worked that way. I think the water had to return to the sea before she would know- not that I was an expert of what gods can do.

“What? Does she want to collect my body and put it on display in her treasure cave?” he inquired scornfully as he used his magicks to button the frock all the way down. He was doing a good job in acting like he didn’t know the real reason for Cyirlie’s actions, but I was having a hard time hiding my worry. Thankfully, Maetira couldn’t see my expression anyway.

Ever since that day he, Cegil, and I discussed the possibility of me having this Hels Meyuun everyone was searching for, we worried that the dragon priestess would eventually come looking for me. I suppose with enough work and determination, Cyirlie managed to break it on her own after several days of trying.

We never told the elders what we knew, so the Oracle wasn’t in on it. We were hoping the barrier was strong enough to keep the sea dragon out and keep the others from suspecting the same idea we had and turn me in.

“No. Actually, she seeks a ‘seafarer that smells like a falucite’. Have any idea who that might be?” she inquired with dry sarcasm. Even though she wouldn’t know what a seafarer looked like, it was still a term that applied to humans.

“Goodness, no- do you think she’s talking about Didra?” I guessed while feigning ignorance. I should’ve remained quiet, but what was the point anymore when Maetira already has an inclination of what we were hiding? It was a matter of elimination- there were only two other human mates in the clan, but I was the only one still living in the homestead. Furthermore, I was the only seafarer.

“Why does the Great Evil want you? Is there something that you have not told the elders? You already neglected to tell us that the ice-cold dragon had seen you,” she pointed out with a near accusing tone. I didn’t know that I had to tell them about everyone I’ve seen in the homestead. Wasn’t the fact that I was worried sick over Satel’s condition enough to exonerate me from that little detail?

“She doesn’t know anything- she didn’t even know who Cyirlie was until I informed her,” Satel argued defensively on my behalf.

“I am asking the nameless one,” Maetira retorted calmly, wanting me to speak for myself. I wondered why she wanted me to say anything when she knew Satel’s word was usually better than mine.

“It’s as he says- I don’t know anything. I don’t know what a Hels Meyuun is or what it does. I’d never met Cyirlie before that day and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know me. All I can guess is that I’m being targeted just because I’m a seafarer,” I replied, hoping that that was the real reason. …Though, I had a feeling that with the goddess asking for me directly, it probably wasn’t a coincidence, and Satel and Cegil knew it.

“Fair enough,” the hooded woman said, accepting my response. She then turned away to stare blankly to the treeless horizon. “Regardless of the situation, the elders do not wish to cooperate with the Great Evil. We will not allow either of you near her- I will be going into hiding soon as well. You are welcome to join me in Creskaela if you have nowhere else to go.”

Satel and I both whipped our heads to stare at her as her words registered. That didn’t make sense- she had no reason to hide. And why did she need to know my involvement if she wasn’t going to do anything about it? Even if she knew, she just implied that she wasn’t going back to report to the elders- not if she needed to avoid the homestead as well.

“Why are you going into hiding? Did you infuriate Cyirlie, too?” my mate inquired, appearing a little disturbed about what she had said. Neither of us expected to hear such a thing from her mouth.

“As the Great Evil is aware of my abilities, she is likely to force me to track you down. Furthermore, I do not believe it is wise to remain when I am of no use to the elders.” This was rare- Maetira actually sounded down when mentioning the latter part.

Ever since the day after Cyirlie’s first visit, the voices of the Fates became silent to her ears. At first, it was thought that They had stopped talking altogether, but it turned out it was just Maetira who couldn’t hear them. For some reason, she had lost her powers- or perhaps her being distraught over her brother’s near demise weakened her for a while.

The best Oracles don’t express anything at all- they bottle up their emotions in order to accurately hear what the Fates were telling them. I didn’t really understand it, but apparently emotions used up too much of the area of the brain the Fates communicated to, and, of course, some excessive feelings could cause distractions in the mind.

With that information, I could easily say that Maetira wasn’t the ‘best’ Oracle, as she was prone to a few emotions she couldn’t control, but she was able to use sarcasm as an outlet to hide her other feelings. Actually, her sociopathic tendencies and the need to push away those close to her might’ve helped form her Oracle abilities in the first place. Hence why almost losing her little brother was enough to disrupt her.

…Hopefully she’ll be fine once things calm down and she has a moment to compose herself. I hate to think what might happen to her if she lost the abilities she’d had since childhood- it would be like losing a part of herself.

Unfortunately, Satel and I had nothing to say to comfort her- we knew nothing about Oracle abilities, and we couldn’t just pretend everything would be fine again when we didn’t know that for sure. Hmm… I never realized how lonely Maetira’s life is. She was the only one of her race who could hear the Fates- and come to think of it, could she even find herself a mate when she has such importance to the clan?

After a long silence the blonde woman was about to walk and probably teleport away, but Satel stopped her so he could accept her earlier offer. “I can’t guarantee we’ll stay for long, but we’ll stay the night tonight and perhaps tomorrow night as well.”

Maetira stood still for a moment and almost turned her head to face us, but she stopped herself at the last second and muttered, “I do not particularly care.”

…She says that, but she had still offered to let us hide with her. She was likely trying to cover up her true feelings, as she was accustomed to doing that her whole life.

My mate let out a sigh once she disappeared, then he tiredly brushed back some strands of his white-blond hair. “It would be safer if we stayed in one of my territories, but I can’t leave her alone when she is clearly so lonely. Annoying as she is, she’s still my sister.”

“I understand,” I replied, even though I didn’t really. I never had a sibling to fight with or comfort, but I did understand that families had to stick together. Besides, I was starting to feel kind of bad for Maetira- not that she ever treated me any nicer than she did to Satel. But after learning some new facts about Oracles, I kind of understood why she acted the way she did- it was just part of the job and a way for her to overcome her handicap.

********************

So around the end of the day, after all our missions, we found ourselves in Creskaela. We didn’t have to finish our missions, since we couldn’t really report back to the elders at the moment, but Satel didn’t want to leave unfinished business.

Maetira had already left word to the town’s innkeeper to give us a room and we immediately headed there to settle in and decide on what to do next. We didn’t know how long Cyirlie planned to seek me out or wait for me to come home, nor did we know what the elders were going to do to convince her to go away.

“What a mess,” Satel muttered as he lay back on the lone full bed with a sigh. He had already taken off his frock coat and rested his über hat on the dresser that sat on the opposite wall from the bed.

The room was of an average size for something one would typically find in an inn, but I was far too used to the spacious chambers I shared with Satel to see it as that. It just seemed small to me- and the full sized bed also seemed inadequate to the queen we had… though, it wasn’t as if we were going to do anything other than sleep on it. At least the walls were the same cream color, but the floor was hardwood. And while I hadn’t glanced into the adjacent bathroom yet, I was certain that the bathtub inside was a typical above ground one that could only fit one person.

Though I shouldn’t complain at all- we were in hiding now and I shouldn’t expect to be sleeping in a room similar to the one we had to leave. I should be grateful that we had a nice place to stay at all… though since when did I become so accustomed to having a bed every night? Used to, Cegil and I had to sleep outside in the wild if we couldn’t reach a town in time.

I let out an identical sigh to Satel’s as I placed my jacket, gun, and holster on the vanity next to the dresser. We were so unprepared to go into hiding- had we known before hand, I would’ve at least picked out my usual attire with a button down skirt and a night shirt to sleep in. I suppose it didn’t really matter since I had self-cleaning magicks in all my clothes, but I wanted to wear something I could be comfortable with for several days.

But what about Lioa? Did she know that she didn’t have to make us anything tonight? Would Cegil figure it out and tell her? In fact, was he still allowed to go to the homestead without fear? I didn’t know how much Cyirlie knew about the clan, but I would guess that she wouldn’t really care about Cegil at all.

Still, Maetira was our major source of information and our link to the clan should we have any reason to be away for a few days. Now that she was also hiding, who would tell us what was happening back home?

“Something the matter ‘Tia-dear? You look a little concerned,” my mate noted as I sat down on the edge of the bed.

“I was just wondering about the homestead and everyone there. How will we make contact with them if Maetira is with us?” I ended up asking, hoping that he might have some idea. He was more acquainted with his own family than I was, so he should know more than I did.

“No need to worry. I’m sure Garroe will think of something- he usually is the one on top of things. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the one who told Maetira to hide,” he mused, not sounding one bit worried over the notion. I suppose he if believed it would be fine, then it will…

Even after all this time, I still didn’t know Satel’s eldest brother all that well. All he was to me was the official ‘leader’ of the branch and Didra’s mate. But when I really thought about it, the world must be on that man’s shoulders.

With the little history I knew, he was all that was left to take care of Satel, Dantia, and Maetira when Cegil was exiled. I don’t know when he mated with Didra, but he must’ve been taking care of the three then falcie (as Maetira should’ve been just under two hundred years old then) all on his own until she came into his life.

And yet, in the few times I’ve talked with him, he had nothing but good things to say about Cegil- he never once resented the role he had to play and he seemed to have taken very good care of Satel and Maetira. I suppose that’s why everyone looks up to him and trusts him- and I guess that’s why he seems like such a good and attentive father to Aared. He’s had practice.

Of course, I couldn’t say for certain that Cujol didn’t help a little, but I never really heard his name come up unless Cegil had something scathing to say about the elders.

“What do we do now? Just wait?” I inquired, still not certain what was going to happen. I then let out a slight grimace before I glanced at Satel and finally asked something I had been dreading a little. “And what about supplies and clothing? …Will I really have to sleep in my clothes tonight?”

I really should get over it but, the part of me that was still human couldn’t get completely comfortable with the thought of trusting the magicks to clean my attire as I slept.

“Well, if it bothers you…” he drawled with a big smirk on his face, “you could always sleep in the nude. I’ll do it too, if it’ll make you feel better.”

This time I winced before I shook my head. “No thanks- I’m not comfortable trying that in a room where your family could pop in at any time.”

“Oh, but it’s okay to fool around in a dark alley as long as I get you drunk enough?” he asked teasingly.

It took me a second to get that, since he was speaking of a moment that happened long ago, before we became mates. My eyes widened when it registered and then I punched him in the stomach in retaliation for bringing it up. All I earned was a hearty laugh instead of a cry of pain, though he was tough enough that a simple punch from me wouldn’t do anything.

“No! We didn’t even go all the-” I didn’t want to finished that sentence, since it was something that didn’t deserve a reply. He knew full well that I was against public exposure- and besides, that night was entirely his fault, not mine!

When Satel calmed down from his laughing fit and I finished fuming at him, he placed his hand on my belly since that was as far as he could reach from his position on the bed. “Don’t fret over it, my sirsa. Someone from the homestead will come check up on us and I’ll make it so they can retrieve what we need… if there’s still something there that can be used.”

“What do you mean?” I inquired after his rather cryptic reply.

“Think about it- if Cyirlie can break through a barrier the elders made, then my barriers around our chambers stand no chance against her. I wouldn’t put it past her to demolish the room if she had reason to believe you were hiding in it,” he explained. “But our clothing can be repaired by magicks, though I can’t say as much for some of the furniture. On the bright side, we can remodel our chambers as we see fit after the ordeal is over.”

I wasn’t as optimistic- frankly I didn’t care what our room looked like as long as I could sleep safely in it. Just hearing how she was searching for me made me remember that the elders were now likely suspicious of my involvement. If Maetira told them my theory as to why I was being targeted, would they believe her?

“Satel? What if Makhis’ra and the others decide to hold me captive over this? …Well, maybe not ‘captive’, but they might want to lock me away somewhere to keep me away from Cyirlie.” I amended myself at the last second since I believed that whatever they decide might be for my own protection. But that didn’t mean that I liked the idea.

There was a long and unexpected silence as he thought about his answer. I wasn’t sure if it was because he didn’t know what would happen, or if he simply didn’t want to think about it. “They won’t… but if they do try it, I won’t let them.”

That wasn’t good enough for me- I knew he would do anything for my safety, but he would never do anything against his elders. “But-”

I tried to argue his point, but he suddenly reached out for me. He used his magicks to help pull me onto the bed with him and I was soon cradled against his side.

“Stop worrying about it. You keep thinking like that and soon I’ll be thinking about it, too. Just remember that the elders don’t see you as a threat- if they had, then they would’ve sent someone with Maetira when she came to see us,” he reminded me as his arms wrapped gently around my frame.

That was true- if they really did have their suspicions that I was part of the Hels Meyuun business, then they would have summoned for me much sooner. Considering that they allowed Satel to simply hide himself when there was danger, it wasn’t unreasonable to believe that they might let me stay by his side.

I suppose the real reason for my unease was to learn that the dragon priestess really did come back for me. I was really hoping that she wouldn’t and that she couldn’t break into the homestead. All I had left to make me feel secure was having Satel by my side.

I didn’t like what was going on now, and I hated being unable to do anything about it. It also didn’t help me that Satel was desperately trying to hide the fact that he was much more worried about the situation than I was. I didn’t buy his ‘relaxed’ act for a second- in fact, he was holding me rather tightly without even realizing it. He only did that when he was very worried.

But little did I know that hiding was only going to escalate things into further chaos. My fifteen-year run was coming to an end. I was soon going to face the man I hated the most- the very one who changed my life forever.

To the Next Chapter

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